Pennies for Christmas
Somewhere in a blink of time blurred between the head and tail tumble of the air riding coin was my fate. Enclosed in an elevator and escorted by a police officer, I had a feeling this wouldn’t end well.
It was Christmas Eve and I’d been caught picking pockets during the annual Christmas parade. I wasn’t proud, but I’d made a promise to my daughter. She couldn’t know that daddy lost his job, or that I’d been going out every day looking, doing everything I could to bring in money with no luck. I couldn’t break my promise to her. One look of disappointment in those big, dreamy, blue eyes when there was no doll under our skinny little tree would be the end of me.
Never mind that this would be our first Christmas without her mother.
As the small copper coin flipped in the air, my nerves kicked in, making me shake. If it landed on heads, I’ll be released. If it landed on tails, though, I’d be stuck in jail through the New Year.
The coin made its final twist and plopped down noiselessly on the officer’s palm. At that same moment, the elevator dinged to announce our arrival on the top floor of the precinct. This was the booking floor, and here was the decisive moment. I shut my eyes tight and inhaled deeply. I opened one eye halfway, but it was enough to show me the impression of the Lincoln Memorial. My heart sunk. My poor little girl would spend her Christmas with the kind grandmotherly neighbor who had taken charge after her mother passed on. Tears filled my eyes, though I was too stubborn to let them fall. I raised my handcuffed arms and wiped them away with knuckle.
“It’s tails, my friend. You know what that means.” He sounded almost as dismayed as I felt. The elevator doors slid open and we stepped into the booking area. All heads turned and looked our way, and I felt heat creep through my cheeks.
“Well, let’s get this over with,” he said.
To my relief, he made quick work of the process. When he told me he couldn’t grant my one phone call because the booking line was so long, I finally released those tears I’d been holding back.
“I have to call my daughter. Please, she’s only seven. She’s waiting for me.” I pleaded. He looked me over and handed me his cell phone.
“Make it quick.”
No one answered. Complete devastation set in and I folded up on the bench in the jail cell. The officer just shook his head and left me.
I must have fallen asleep because when I awoke, there was a new penny on the bench next to me. This one showed Lincoln’s profile. I didn’t understand, at first, until I saw my cell door was open, a Christmas tree had been lit in the center of the room beyond the cell, and my daughter was standing in front of the tree holding the officer’s hand. In her arms she held the most beautiful doll I could never have afforded to give her.
She came running into my opened arms. “Look, Daddy! Look what Santa brought me!”
I looked at the officer, noticing his white beard for the first time. My jaw dropped and tears flooded over. Before I could say thank you, he nodded his head, gave a small wink, and moved out of sight.
This piece is inspired by the Write on Edge “I Spy” prompt. I chose the penny. I also had some help writing this. The first line belongs to the very talented Alycia, FKA the Crayon Wrangler. Thanks again for lending me your zinger!
This is also being linked with #FridayFlash.
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